Sunday, November 15, 2009

a (not so brief) update on my life in spain

Hello family and friends! in case you didn't know, i am back for another year in spain... but it appears this blog has become more of a thing to be neglected and felt guilty about than a good way of keeping in touch. what follows is a (slightly) edited EPIC email i sent to my parents a few days ago. upon my mom's suggestion, i've added it here. it's not well written or edited for grammar etc, but it's a basic (long) rundown of my life here at the moment. i will try to keep updating on more specific things. but suffice to say i am happy to be back, am making friends, and am very busy with work (as you'll see below). enjoy!

things here are good, but very busy. somehow when i have internet i find myself wasting lots of time instead of taking advantage and keeping in touch with important people. now that i've taken my turn in online scrabble via facebook, i've found the time to write to y'all.

they still haven't paid us for october or november, so we're all struggling a little bit to make it to the end of this month, when a whopping 700 euro will (supposedly) arrive in our bank accounts. most people still have to pay rent and maybe put a deposit down on housing, so it won't last long. luckily i've been able to live off the money i had leftover from last year. but i have about a million (9, soon to be 11) private lessons a week, so i'm doing just fine. although my some friends and i have sworn to go to both our favorite japanese place and the amazing sausage place as soon as we get paid.

school is good, just regular. i have some classes this year that i didn't have last year, with the oldest bilingual kids who are now in about freshman year. they are bad! we think they have a significant chip on their shoulders because they're the first bilingual section in the school and they've continually been told how good and talented and intelligent and special they are. they are not. they're rude and out of control and smart alecky, but not in a cute way, in a bratty, badly behaved way. i still love seeing my kids from last year; it's not that they're any better behaved this year, but i have a serious soft spot for them. the first years are pretty good, but in the afternoon class they are pretty bad. i have to figure out how to keep them interested and under control at the same time. last year i had the afternoon class with my co-teacher sheila, so it wasn't too bad, at least we could support each other and have two pairs of eyes and two disciplinarians. now i have 15 kids on my own while the other guy has the other half. i get frustrated and yell a lot and they are only quiet for about three seconds after i yell, and then it gets out of control again. i am seriously starting to worry about my vocal cords.

my private classes are going well. i have julia, the 16 year old i had last year, twice a week. she's great, i just go and talk to her and we do her homework and practice reading comprehension etc. her mom said this year she won't let me escape to the US without coming to their house to eat sometime, which is super nice.

i also meet with an english teacher who's 30, and speaks really great english. and he's really really nice and interesting, so we have a lot to talk about in our conversation class. he and his girlfriend have started inviting me to do things with them on the weekends, which is really nice. last weekend we went to an archeological exhibit here in town. look up atapuerca on wikipedia, it's this archaeological dig pretty near here that's evidently a huge deal. there they found the oldest human remains ever found in western europe, and even found a new species of human ancestors. and there is the first evidence of funerary rites EVER found in the whole world! isn't that cool?! the exhibit was ok, it was all casts of the bones though, so i didn't get to see any real dead guys. this weekend they (pablo and isabel) invited me to go to lunch at their house, so i went over there yesterday and had a lovely afternoon eating and talking with them. i invited them to our spanish-american thanksgiving celebration in two weekends, and they seemed really excited about it. i was glad to be able to invite them to something and return their inclusion!

for other extra lessons i have 4 hours a week at an english academy, which is still going ok. i have three classes, two of 8/9 year olds, and one of 12/13 year olds. the little kids are hard to handle, i speak a lot of spanish with them. oops. the older girls are really nice though, we all get along and chat and work on english. i look forward to having class with them. i just graded their first exams. i feel like a real teacher!

then i have a private lesson with a 5 year old named luis, and i go out to their house twice a week. they live in this beautiful redone house out in the countryside, and it was sunny last time i went, so we played outside some. but i feel a little uncomfortable going there, i'm not sure how i feel about it. they are super wealthy, like even have a maid/nanny who wears a uniform. last time i went there was a new mini cooper, a bmw SUV and a mercedes in the driveway. the mom drives a modest volkswagen. they also have at least 14 dogs because they breed them, bordeaux something? they're like hefty boxers with reddish brown coats. the mom often drops me off late or doesn't leave on time, so i don't know if i feel taken advantage of or not. but the kid is (surprisingly) very good, and they pay me 18 euro and come and pick me up at school and drop me off, so it's not all bad. the weirdest thing was when we were trying to find another hour a week (she wanted 2), i was looking at my schedule to try to find a slot between school and the academy, and i said something about having to leave time to eat lunch. she asked me what i'd done that day for lunch, and i'd brought a sandwich because i wasn't sure when i'd leave their house etc. and she said "oh that's good, you can just bring your sandwich and eat while luis eats." like, not offering me food at their house while they're cooking anyway and feeding the little kid...and it's clear no one is wanting for money or anything like that at this house. it made me feel a little bit like "the help." so i just eat before i go every time to save my dignity and hang out while the kid eats. i'll see how it goes, i've only gone 3 times so far.

then my friends from school last year, eva and maria eugenia want to meet once a week or so for conversation so i can help them with new vocabulary and their pronunciation. so we agreed we'd meet for lunch, they'd buy me lunch, and then over coffee afterwards we'd chat in english for a while. which is totally fine for me. free lunch! so unlike the place i described above, i just realized that. sheila also is passing along a conversation class she had last year with 2 kids who she says are just wonderful, so i will find time for them, as a favor to her and because she recommends them so highly. so all in all, i'll be making a good amount of extra money, well over half my salary. maybe i'll even save some money this year!! or at the very least have some to africa to visit katie maybe....!

my choir's christmas concert is dec 18th, which is also the day i leave to come home. but we're gonna be on TV this year! for whatever reason we're performing in the cathedral and the local tv channel is going to televise it. so cool! and i was a little bummed i wasn't going to be there, but not too badly. and then the director said the choir would pay the difference to change my ticket to come home the next day....which i didn't believe at first, and then he told me again. so i looked into it, and it will cost at least 300 US dollars just to change it, plus the difference in the ticket prices. and i told him that, saying i wouldn't make the concert because it would be so expensive to change it, and he said no no i told you we'd pay, you change it and we'll pay. so i'll look into that! wouldn't that be cool!? and SO SO nice. he has no reason to do that, they have other sopranos, they perform without me all the time, especially over the summer. AND next weekend we're going away for the weekend, the whole choir! the government of the next province over, castilla y leon, i think, invited us to come and sing a few concerts and masses, and they pay our transportation and hotels and food and everything. so we're going on a bus and staying saturday night and singing a bunch of concerts. and the last thing about choir, is that my friend raquel from school sent me an email about six cocker spaniel puppies a friend of a friend was trying to give away, or else they'd be "sacrificados." and i got so sad, i've been working really hard to find people to take them. i wish i could! so i forwarded the email with pictures to choir, and no one wanted one, and i just got a call from one guy who does want one! so i'm really happy to have been able to help the little things. they're so so cute and tiny. then raquel just got back to me saying they've all been given homes. i feel bad telling my friend from choir he can't have one, but i'm really happy they've been adopted.

today we're going to cook all day, my friends rachel, francesca, their spanish roommate marina, and i. yesterday i went to the fruit/vegetable place that's SUPER cheap and great, down the block from my house. last week i got everything to make a big minestrone soup, a whole bursting plastic bag full of potatoes, zucchini, carrots, parsnips, onions, and some fruit, and it all cost under 4 euro! and they gave me free parsley! it's a great place, rachel found it.

so that's the most recent news from this side of the atlantic. i'll write more about more interesting historical cultural things, or anecdotes, etc. at some point. for now just a simple update. take care everyone!! xox